Knowledge and Use in Second Language

2016, June 29, 30 & 1st July
Linguistics Lab of Nantes & University of Nantes

In the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), where different conceptions of the human capacity for language exist, there is a consensus that several factors determine the uses of a second language. No matter what framework is used, there is a common understanding that both linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge such as cognitive or encyclopedic knowledge are solicited during the acquisition process. Are these components part of a preexisting linguistic system ? A linguistic system that is being built through acquisition ? Are they a metalinguistic, verbalizable knowledge of a target language or of languages varieties ? How do knowledge and language use correlate ? These issues are still being discussed today.

Knowledge in SLA can be defined as a set of cognitive dispositions that are partly modeled by the first language use and which enables the learner to understand and produce the target language in various contexts. The principles of informational organization in functionalist models (Watorek, Benazzo, Hickmann 2012) or statistical capacity and learning mechanism as put forward by emergentist models (Ellis 2006, 2012) are part of this global knowledge through which the learner approaches Second Language Acquisition. With this in mind, one may wonder whether emergence of, increase in, or loss of knowledge lead to a restructuring of the interlanguage.

Knowledge and use can also refer to two different types of linguistic knowledge: declarative or explicit knowledge, and procedural or implicit knowledge. Can declarative knowledge morph into procedural knowledge (Anderson 1990, DeKeyser 2007) or, since they result from two strictly distinct learning processes (Paradis 1994, 2009), are the two types of knowledge independent from each other ?

The stakes raised by the research on the interface between linguistic knowledge and language use are becoming a key issue in SL teaching. If a language is acquired through proceduralization of explicit knowledge, it entails that learning it hinges on a combination of proceduralization techniques that need to be defined. If on the other hand the development of declarative knowledge does not lead to the development of automatized SL use, this may require us to rethink several assumptions behind many institutional interventions as well as language teaching in its entirety.

In keeping with recent discussions (Hulstijn 2005, De Graff & Housen 2009, Han & Finneran 2014, Adringa & Rebuschat 2015), the conference intends to focus on knowledge and usage in SL as well as on different ways of conceiving the two notions and how they are related.

The conference will accept papers presenting relevant research on SLA (including heritage languages) and focusing on the interface between knowledge and usage in SL. We welcome research findings proposing original methodologies to access speakers' knowledge and usage; research on poorly studied languages; contrastive studies on speakers that have been more or less exposed to explicit knowledge.


Adringa S. & P. Rebuschat. (2015). New Directions in the Study of Implicit and Explicit Learning. An introduction. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Special Issue 02, 185-196.

Anderson, J. (1990). Cognitive psychology and its implications. New-York : W.H. Freeman.

DeKeyser R. (Ed.). (2007). Practice in a second language: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology. New York : Cambridge University Press.

De Graaff, R., & Housen, A. (2009). Investigating the Effects and Effictiveness of L2 Instruction. In M.H. Long & C.J. Doughty, The Handbook of Language Teaching (pp. 726-755). Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell.

Ellis N. C. (2006). Selective Attention and Transfer Phenomena in L2 Acquisition : Contingency, Cue, Competition, Salience, Interference, Overshadowing, Blocking, and Perceptual Learning. Applied Linguistics 27(2). 164-194.

Ellis, N. C. (2012). What can we count in language, and what counts in language acquisition, cognition, and use? In S. Th. Gries & D. S. Divjak (Eds.) Frequency effects in language learning and processing (Vol. 1). (pp. 7-34). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

Han, Z., & Finneran (2014). Re-engaging the interface debate : strong, weak none, or all ? International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 24(3), 370-389.

Hulstijn, J. (2005). Theoretical and empirical issues in the study of of implicit and explicit second language learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27(2), 129-140.

Paradis, M. (1994). Neurolinguistic Aspects of Implicit and Explicit Memory: Implications for Bilinguism and SLA. In N.C. Ellis. Implicit and Explicit learning of languages (pp. 393-416). Academic Press Ltd.

Paradis, M. (2009). Declarative and Procedural Determinants of Second Languages. Amsterdam : John Benjamin.

Watorek M., Benazzo S., Hickmann M. (éds) (2012). Comparative perspectives on language acquisition : A Tribute to Clive Perdue. Multilingual Matters.